Rhun ap Iorwerth and Angharad Mair

When Adam Price announced that he was going to stand down as an MP at the 2010 Westminster election, up stepped Angharad Mair to ask that Plaid Cymru waive the rules in her favour so that she could be selected to fight the seat, even though she had only just become a member. Of course I was delighted to find out that she shared our values and welcomed her support for the party ... but I thought it was presumptous—and perhaps even manipulative—for her to think she could be a candidate straight away, and I was very pleased that Jonathan Edwards was selected instead of her.

It now appears that Rhun ap Iorwerth is trying to do exactly the same thing in Ynys Môn, and my reaction is exactly the same as it was before. I'm delighted to hear that Rhun is, according to his new blog, "wholeheartedly committed to the values and ambitions of Plaid Cymru for our nation". But that's pretty much what I'd expect of any member of the party. In itself it certainly isn't something that would immediately qualify him to be a candidate in a seat that Plaid are hot favourites to retain.

     

Several aspects of what is happening cause me concern. The first is the idea that the National Executive of Plaid Cymru might be open to waive the rules. Fairly clearly, some senior people in Plaid Cymru think that Rhun would be ideal. In fact I'd guess it would be appropriate to take the very same words that were used in the Western Mail article four years ago and say that, "Powerful backers of Angharad Rhun in the cultural wing of the national executive are backing her his case ... "

But what does that say about the way Plaid Cymru operates as a party? Do we want to be seen as a party in which vested interests can chop and change the rules as they see fit? I'm sure that the wave of new members that joined the party in the hope that it things would become more transparent and open when we elected Leanne as our new leader last year won't be impressed by this. It bears all the hallmarks of what Labour are already calling a "stitch-up".

Second, do we really want to be seen as a party that thinks "media personality" is a more important quality in a candidate than proven political capability? Rhun might be good at asking questions, but that's no indication of how well he will answer them. And, even more critically, we don't even know what his answers will be because he has never been called upon to put his political beliefs on the line. He is an unknown quantity. Nor has he ever put in the sheer hard graft that everyone else who might expect to be considered as a candidate will have committed themselves to, often over many years.

     

I hesitate to say who I think the best Plaid candidate for Ynys Môn would be because I don't live there. Provided that a candidate meets the criteria laid out by the party as a whole, I think it should be a local choice. However I can and will say that Heledd Fychan seems to me to be an ideal candidate. We know where she stands on individual issues because she has spoken about them at conference, on her blog and on the campaign trail. She has proved that she has the energy, stamina and commitment to fight elections both in her excellent preformance in Montgomeryshire for the Westminster election in 2010 and as a list candidate for north Wales in the Assembly election in 2011. She has cut her teeth on an electoral battlefield in which Rhun is still wet behind the ears.

That is not to say that Rhun doesn't have what it takes; I am only saying that he doesn't have it yet. I welcome the fact that he wants to join Plaid Cymru; I welcome his ambition for Wales and his ambition to stand as a candidate for the party; but for his sake and ours he needs to prove himself before he can do that. This by-election for the Assembly will be held in only a few weeks, but in May 2015 there will be an election for Westminster, and by then—if he puts in the spadework and shows where he stands on the issues—he might well be the ideal candidate to win back Ynys Môn for Plaid.

Bookmark and Share

54 comments:

Cneifiwr said...

While I understand and have some sympathy with your point of view, the problem with this approach is that it makes it well nigh impossible for talented people from a number of important professions from becoming actively involved in politics. What was Rhun supposed to do - resign from the BBC and starve for a couple of years until he qualifies under the rules?

It's good to see people coming forward who are not career politicians, and I for one think that the fact that our party has such a wealth of talent in office or seeking election is something we should celebrate. No other party in Wales can hold a candle to Plaid, and no doubt there are more Rhuns out there.

As you point out, the final choice will be made by members in Mon. Let them decide who they want. For anyone who prefers rules and byzantine procedural discussions to people, Labour is for you.

MH said...

I'm not sure that what you've said stands up, Cneifiwr. I can obviously understand why the political affiliations of someone in the media spotlight should not be made public, but the BBC does prohibit its staff (employee or freelance, Rhun has been both) from being an ordinary member of a political party. The guidlines that exist cover the opinions they might express on particular issues. The two are not the same.

In fact Angharad Mair has continued with her media job even though her political affiliations are now clear. This shows that simply being a member of a political party was never, in itself, a problem. So both she and Rhun could have been members for at least a year before asking to be put on the list of candidates, and they would then not have had this problem.

Second, I would remind you that the Plaid members in Môn can only choose him if the National Executive agrees to waive the rules and put him on the list of approved candidates. It is not simply a matter of local choice.

But the bigger point is that Rhun is an unknown and unproven quantity. So even if the National Executive are foolish enough (and I'm afraid to say that I suspect they will be) to allow him onto the list, I hope the members in Ynys Môn will not select him without knowing exactly what he stands for and how much he is prepared to do for the party. I think it will be nigh-on impossible for him to demonstrate it, or for members to make a judgement about what he stands for, in such a short time.

When something, indeed anything, is "sprung" on the party at very short notice, people will rightly suspect there might be something fishy about it. Ieuan seems to have retired with surprising haste, and after at first indicating he would stay on as AM for a while he suddenly changed his mind and called for a by-election to be held as quickly as possible, right in the middle of summer when political activity is at its lowest ebb. From my perspective, something ain't quite right.

Cneifiwr said...

Let's agree to differ. I think there may be a 'not' missing from the bit about the BBC prohibiting staff from being an ordinary member of a political party, but either way he could not remain with the BBC if he wanted to stand for election.

Owen said...

"Do we want to be seen as a party in which vested interests can chop and change the rules as they see fit?"

I hate to say it, MH, but it's highly likely all parties do that to varying degrees. Plaid are no exception.

The cynic in me understands why the Plaid top table might want more high profile "outsiders/newcomers" to stand. I was concerned stuff like this would happen when Leanne Wood made the speech in Aberystwyth last year on "open primaries."

It might well boost the party's image and visibility - which is priceless in Wales - but it doesn't send out the best message about talent within the party. I think that's a problem for all parties though, as the general public switch off from politics and the only people left to run are those with egos big enough to stand in the first place and career politicians.

I agree with you that everything surrounding this seems "a bit off", but I'm not one for internal party politics anyway. One reason I'm not a member is because I'd find internal machinations like this tedious.

The unquestionable good news is that Plaid have two potentially strong candidates on Ynys Mon, it's clearly ruffled Labour feathers and it'll be Plaid members in the constituency who get the final say as to whom will stand in the end.

Jac o' the North, said...

In the absence of talented, and willing, local members it's a choice between Gwladys who's licked most envelopes and knocked most doors or a high profile newcomer with more chance of winning. Any party will go for the newcomer(s).

What's more, given that both Rhun ap Iorwerth and his wife have local roots this can't be compared with New Labour's 'parachuting' tactic.

If I was a Plaid member I'd be relaxed about this and happy that my party can attract two (possibly more) candidates with a good chance of winning. And if it's pissing off the Labour Party then that should only add to the enjoyment.

Dylan said...

I don't see any cause for concern here. Plaid Cymru's rules do state that a person ought to have been an ordinary member for a year before being allowed to stand for office in the party's name, but they also allow for exceptional circumstances. This surely qualifies, given the BBC's strict (but understandable) rules on political party affiliations. I really don't agree that party rules are being "chopped and changed" or improvised, because this mechanism already exists with scenarios like this in mind. I certainly don't understand how this could possibly constitute a "stitch-up".

If Ynys Môn members are unhappy with the situation (and from my armchair on the opposite shore of the Menai, the opposite seems to me to be the case), they can nominate Heledd Fychan instead. It's true that we don't yet actually know Rhun ap Iorwerth's stance on various issues (though we can presume that they broadly resemble general party aims), but they will hopefully come to light over the next few days so that the local members can make an informed decision. And it will be theirs to make, not the executives or party leaders. It should be an interesting debate.

welshnotbritish said...

Picture the scene, Scotland v Wales on a snowy March night in Hampden Park. Gareth Bale is too injured to make the second half so up steps Jonny "Joniesta" Williams, the 19 year old debutant from Crystal Palace.

The Scots love it, they're 1-0 up and "who the ****ing hell are you" is chanted with glee.

But there's a reason he's nicknamed Joniesta. He ran the second half, Wales won 2-1 and proof if ever there was iin the saying "if you're good enough you're old enough". Especially true when there is a lack of depth on the sidelines.

Good luck to whoever get's selected, Wales cannot afford to lose any seats to Labour.

Ifan Morgan Jones said...

I'm not a member of Plaid Cymru, but surely everyone can agree that what the Welsh Assembly needs is the best people for the job. Heledd and Rhun are good candidates, both want to be AMs, let them stand - who cares about completely arbitrary rules. In this case, the rule is that the rules can be ignored in special cases.

MH said...

Yes, I did miss a "not", Cneifiwr. Sorry.

To Owen, I don't imagine that Plaid are better than other parties, but I want us to be. I wouldn't be writing this unless I wanted to prevent us making a bad decision.

I don't have any problem with us wanting to widen our talent base. Quite the contrary, I welcome it. And things like open primaries, in which every member who wants to put their name foward is encouraged to do so, is positive. The last thing I want is for someone whose only qualification is seniority to be selected.

But I find it impossible to go along with Royson when he claims there is an "absence of talented, and willing, local members". While that is true in some parts of Wales where Plaid have a weak support base, it certainly isn't true in this constituency. We hold this seat in the Assembly; we have just outperformed every other party in the council election last month; so there should be plenty of high quality candidates who have been a member of the party for more than a year to choose from.

The reason I think it's important, rather than some sort of "completely arbitrary" rule (as Ifan suggested), is because it is impossible to properly assess a potential candidate in a short time. Depending on when the election is called, we might only have a few days, so I don't know whether to call Dylan's idea that Rhun's views "will hopefully come to light over the next few days" hopelessly naïve or impossibly optimistic. But I will say that we in Plaid have a tendency to put too much hope in heroes rather than realizing we're quite capable of doing the job ourselves. Who knows, perhaps this mild-mannered reporter from the Daily Globe really does wear red underwear on the outside. But perhaps he doesn't ... they might turn out to be as grey as those of another person who wore them on the outside. The fact is that we simply don't know ... yet. That's why I suggested 2015 would be a more suitable election for him to aim for.

To Stu, if we're talking in footballing terms, we have a good number of very capable substitutes sitting on the bench, and we know they can do the job. Do we send on one of these substitutes, or do we turn to someone in the crowd who has only just started supporting the club? No manager would take the risk of sending an untried new supporter on to play the second half. In such a situation I'd expect the manager to say: "No, not for this match. But turn up for training on Monday morning and, if you're as good as you say you are, you'll be part of the team for the next one."

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Cytuno, MH. If they didn't let Angharad throw her hat into the Carmarthen East ring, they shouldn't let Rhun do so in Môn either.

Heledd Fychan would do a super job as Plaid AM for Ynys Môn. Let her stand now, and give Rhun a stab at Albert Owen in 2015.

Alwyn ap Huw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alwyn ap Huw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alwyn ap Huw said...

I don't want to comment on Rhun or Heledd as individuals because they are both people for whom I have a great deal of respect and it is up to Plaid on the island to choose not me to recommend.

We have to accept that there are jobs where, for better or worse, people are not allowed to be party members or actively engaged in party politics, BBC reporters, Anglican clergy, Police Officers, some civil servants and some Local Government Officers for example. Surely all political parties have to make allowances for this in their selection rules.
Whilst following the Aled Roberts and John Dixon fiasco after the last Assembly election, what struck me most was how many people are disbarred from standing in Assembly elections. The number of talented people who are excluded from the political process because of institutional rules and electoral law is excessive, bad for public service, bad for Wales and bad for democracy.

Rather than criticising Plaid or the Labour party for this situation we should, perhaps, be focusing on the institutions, rules and laws that prevent good people who are committed to public service, regardless of party, from taking a full part in the democratic process.

Penderyn said...

I'm with Alwyn. Heledd is a friend of mine and I also know Rhun - both are highly capable who I'd be delighted to campaign for. There are two sets of rules here which seem to be being treated in the same breath. One is the potential for the NEC to consider applications to the National Register from people who were previously in politically restricted jobs or in other personal circumstances that restricted their ability to be party members. The other, far more important in this regard is the ability of our members in Mon to choose the best candidate. That is their choice, as it should be - even though its a choice I wouldn't find easy to make myself!

MH said...

To Alwyn and Dafydd, I have to repeat what I tried to say before. Being a BBC political presenter, a police officer or an Anglican vicar does not prevent a person from being a member of a political party (except membership of certain far-right parties in the case of the police). So there was nothing to prevent either Rhun or Angharad being members of Plaid Cymru.

Be careful not to get caught up in the twists that are being put on the story: it is not a matter of political allegiance, but of political activity. The level of their activity, and the nature of it, is what matters. Cneifiwr got it right by saying that both could not remain in their respective positions while putting themselves forward for election.

Look again at Angharad's example. Her political allegiance is now known, but it does not stop her doing the job she was doing before. The same is true of Rhun: he will be quite free to go back and do the same work for the BBC as he has been until now if and when he decides to step down from high profile political activity in the party.

The excuse that they could not be members of Plaid until they stepped down is a pretext. But it seems to be one that is now being circulated as justification for a needlessly rushed, over-hasty selection process.

-

The matter of who is allowed to be elected as an AM is something different. I would agree that the rules that the two LibDems fell foul of are overstrict and think they should be changed to allow someone to resign from a proscribed position after they are elected but before they take their seat.

-

Finally I would say to Dafydd that he needs to re-read what I've written. It is not entirely up to Plaid members in Ynys Môn to chose the candidate they think best. Any local constituency can only choose from candidates who are on the Nation Register of approved candidates, and that is something to be decided by the central party. One safeguards the other.

My fear is that the National Executive will nod this through (perhaps they already have) by arguing that it is not for them to prevent the membership in Môn from choosing whoever they want. That would be a dereliction of their responsibility, for you can be sure that during the hustings the argument will be that Rhun must be OK, otherwise the National Executive wouldn't have allowed him to be on the list. It's a circular argument that those who are trying to spring Rhun into the position will no doubt exploit. They are manipulating the rules to achieve the result they want. I am trying to prevent what looks like a blatant stitch up from happening.

For choice to be meaningful, it must be informed. My fundamental objection to Rhun being approved as a potential candidate is that ordinary party members are in no position to make a judgement about what political values and opinions he holds within only a few days. It takes longer than that.

Pwll y Carw said...

MH,
I often agree with the things you post on here, and I often don’t, perhaps on an 80/20 rule… You provide an absolutely first class forum for nationalist discussion and your work is, I can assure you, very much appreciated by this Ynys Môn ‘nasho’. But I think your absolutism on this point is misplaced and a little naive.
It is practically impossible to imagine that Rhun ap Iorwerth could have been a member of Plaid Cymru during his TV career (certainly, say, in the last 10 years or so when he has anchored major ‘political’ shows, closely cross-examined political players at interview, etc.). Whether BBC rules allow it or not, it would have been completely inappropriate and unethical. I don’t think we have to stretch our imaginations too far to imagine the controversy that would entail if Adrian Masters was a signed-up member of the Labour party, Jamie Owen a Conservative, Felicity Evans a Lib Dem. They all have their own politics I am sure, and they no doubt express them through the ballot box and in the privacy of their own homes, but when it comes to their work, they have an obligation to their audience to do everything they can do to preserve impartiality, and importantly, the IMPRESSION of impartiality.
To therefore ask these journalists, or anyone else in a similar situation in other professions (and there are thousands) to leave their careers and go and sit on Mount Sinai for a year before being able to stand for election for a political party is extremely unfair, naive and quite simply damaging to our democracy. You are effectively prohibiting people who are in politically sensitive careers from making a switch into elected politics without considerable disruption to their careers. This is surely the opposite of what we want isn’t it? The ‘exceptional circumstances’ rule therefore in Plaid (and any other party) is surely not only understandable but ethically necessary. Fortunately in our legal system we exercise judgement on the basis of the facts and the circumstances. This is no different. A judgement will be exercised and the party executive will be held to account for it. Do we want to be members of a party where the ‘word’ becomes absolute or where human judgement becomes absolute?
In respect of Rhun’s capabilities, there is no direct causal relationship between being a good AM or Cabinet minister (let’s hope) and being an enthusiastic, dedicated party activist, with years of experience. If it were that simple, Gwen in my branch would have been FM years ago, and Theodore Huckle would be doing the filing at Cathays Park instead of being Wales’s chief legal officer.
You are right in that Rhun’s ideas and mettle need to be tested, and that will be done by the members of Ynys Môn. They are, after all, extremely discerning people and more than capable of seeing the wood for the trees.

MH said...

What you find it practically impossible to imagine is, to be frank, not the point, PyC. The political allegiances of people in the media spotlight are not the issue. To put it the other way round, if political allegiance (as opposed to political activity) were in fact the issue it would make it impossible for anyone who has made their political allegiance known in the past to subsequently take up a media spotlight job. That clearly isn't the case.

But even if it were true, it is silly of you to talk in terms of "sitting on Mt Sinai for a year", just as it was silly of Cneifiwr to talk of "starving for a couple of years". By using over-emotive language it is you who are presenting a needless black-and-white contrast. What's so wrong with doing some other work for a year ... while at the same time using that year to demonstrate your commitment and your suitability to become a candidate?

You talk of "considerable disruption to their careers" as if there should be a smooth progression from one job to another. If you think Rhun or anyone else should be able to make a seamless transition, then it becomes even more evident that we are talking in terms of "stitch up" and "manipulation".

You yourself have said that Rhun needs to be tested. I agree. That's the point I have been making. I wouldn't be so absolute as to say it must be a year. Ten months might be enough. Perhaps six at a pinch. But to reduce it to a matter of a few days is patently ridiculous.

Pwll y Carw said...

I'm sorry we disagree MH. From what I've seen and read so far, I see no technical or ethical problem in Rhun's candidature. Quite the opposite. I think it is a brave and principled move. I wish more high-profile supporters of Plaid would do the same. As an Ynys Mon member, I will consider all the candidates and make my choice. As it happens, I have considerable respect for Heledd as well.

Dylan said...

I'm not going to argue against the notion that we don't really know Rhun ap Iorwerth's opinions on most issues and that the very short length of time the local members have to make up their mind means that it's not an ideal situation. Clearly, if they don't think that they know enough about him, then they have other candidates to choose instead. They may well do so.

My only point of contention is your claim that this constitutes a "stitch-up". I simply can't see how that could be the case.

Cai Larsen said...

Mike, I don't think that this is helpful & I'll make a couple of omments on my own blog. But to clarify one point - Rhun won't be able to go back to his old job if things don't work out for him in Ynys Mon. His job largely involved providing political coverage, & as he's outed himself politically he'll never be able to return to it.

BoiCymraeg said...

I have nothing personal against Rhun, but I'm inclined to agree with MH. I also feel more than a little sorry for Heledd, because all this publicity is doubtless going to do Rhun lots of favours if he does make it through to selection - Heledd has put in lots of graft and hard work, being a candidate in two more-or-less unwinnable situations and still showing enthusiasm and commitment; yet the more bigging-up Rhun gets the more she's looking like an also-ran. Obviously the best candidate should win, and if that's Rhun then that's fine, but I do still feel for Heledd.

Something nobody's mentioned yet is why the hell Ieuan has made this happen - he could have announced he would stand down for 2016 like Rhodri & Alun Ffred did, thus allowing the candidates to get known, quit their current jobs if necessary etc. etc. - I get it that he's probably had enough and wants out, but this probably wasn't the best move for the party. Parties which cause "unnecessary" by-elections tend to be punished in them and though I don't think the PC will lose no matter who they are, this is mainly because the opposition are all in an awful state.

Suzanne Heale said...

What hasn't been mentioned here is that HF has put her name forward to represent Afon. So my question would be, do the people of Ynys Mon want a candidate who lives and is raising a family there, or someone who it seems isn't particular in where she stands as long as she stands somewhere?

MH said...

Dylan, I have been trying to prevent it from becoming a stitch up by urging the party to be above board and consistent in its application of a rule which I believe is not arbitrary, but there for good reason.

I think it's fairly obvious that there are several aspects of this whole episode: the timing of the Ieuan's announcement to retire, the sudden re-timing of his resignation and the timing of Rhun's announcement, that smack of internal power games. Of course there is nothing odd or unusual about internal power games, whether in Plaid Cymru, any other political party, or any other organization. But in such situations it is particularly bad for our image as a party if one of the factions exercises their power to waive the established rules.

What I said to Pwll y Carw was that if s/he or others started justifying the idea that the rules should be waived by talking in terms of "considerable disruption to their careers" it could only stack evidence in favour of the conclusion that the process is being manipulated to achieve a particular outcome in favour of a particular person.

-

To Cai, I'm not sure. If at some time in the future he decides to step down from active politics there will be nothing to stop him doing work for the BBC. I'm not saying he will be able to go straight back into the same work if he either fails to get the nomination or loses the election, but the door is not closed forever.

And please call me Michael. I don't like MIke.

-

To BC, I think the whole matter of timing has become a bit of a dog's breakfast. In principle, I think it was quite clever to hold a by-election before 2016. Ieuan taking up a new position in which he would be able to serve the people of north west Wales, but in a different way, is something that I think the electorate could understand and accept without them punishing Plaid in the ensuing by-election.

But of course there are advantages to Plaid in holding a by-election before 2016, and it would be pointless to deny what will be obvious to any serious political observer:

- that Plaid did very well in the Council election;
- that Labour (the only party that could seriously challenge Plaid for the seat) did particularly badly;
- that the new Plaid candidate would therefore have no real problem in being elected even if the party did take a slight hit;
- that scoring an election victory on the island before 2015 would provide momentum that could help win the Westminster seat in 2015;
- and that the new Plaid AM would have the advantage of incumbency in the 2016 Assembly election, making it that much easier for Plaid to hold the seat

The original announcement that Ieuan was going to step down, but at some point over the next months or years and without taking two salaries, was fine. It would have allowed for an organized transition and a proper selection process. It would also have maximized the potential for the by-election to have a positive effect on the Westminster election, for if held too soon everyone would have forgotten about it by 2015. We should have aimed for some time in 2014, but keeping an eye on public opinion just in case Labour showed signs of a surge. If we'd stuck to that plan, everything would have been fine.

MH said...

To continue from the last comment, the problem is that things started to go wrong straight away. Ieuan did a sudden U-turn and said he was going to step down immediately. Was this cock-up or conspiracy?

Let's work through the first. It is pretty damn stupid to choose to hold a by-election without first working out who your new candidate is going to be. Perhaps Plaid just went into a blind panic and thought: We've just had a good local election so we must strike now while the iron is hot. Yet the idea of doing that in a seat you hold and should have every expectation of continuing to hold is so short-term that it verges on amateur dramatics. Plaid has been hopelessly unprofessional at times in the past, and this might be a throwback to those days.

Now let's work through the second. If you choose to hold a by-election without the selection process for the new candidate having been completed, and even go so far as to urge the Llywydd to hold it as quickly as possible, it shows you think that there is something to be gained by forcing the members in Môn to make a decision in a matter of a few days that would, in the normal course of events, take months. Needlessly rushing the process of selection in this way means that there will not be time for members of the party to properly assess the prospective candidates.

The simple fact is that no ordinary member of the party knows where Rhun stands on any issues because he could not make public statements about it. The only people that could know where he stands on the issues are those in his private circle of friends. One of the things that disturbs me is that Rhun has not made the slightest effort to show ordinary party members where he stands on the issues. If we look again at the blog he has just set up, there is absolutely nothing on it except a duplicate announcement of his intention to stand. This suggests that he does not intend to make his pitch to members on the basis of what he stands for, and is relying instead on his status as a "media personality".

There could be two tragedies here. One is that he, those who have waived the rules to let him stand, and those who support him without knowing what he stands for, are showing us and everyone outside the party that "media personality" is more important than having coherent policies and being able to explain to the electorate why they matter. The second would be much worse: that those who are backing him know full well where he stands on the issues, know where they are at variance with party policy, and are rushing this whole process through to get him in before the membership at large can do anything to stop it.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

That is a scurrilous comment to make Suzanne. Heledd was bought up in Ynys Môn, her father is one of the new Plaid county councillors on the island the idea that she doesn't care for Anglesey is patently ridiculous. Heledd has ancient family connections in Montgomeryshire, which is why she stood there in the general election, she and her parents have played a huge role in the economic life of Caernarfon by running businesses there. The idea that she is some sort of unscrupulous carpet bagger is so unfair that it verges on the libellous.

In Rhun, Ann and Heledd Plaid has a difficult choice to make between three exceptional candidates, I would be proud to have any one of them as my AM.

Of course party members and supporters may favour one over the others and are welcome to note their favoured candidates strengths in a positive campaign in support. But please remember that bitchy and negative comments against the other candidates will be picked up by other parties and used against the eventual winner in a "this is what Plaid people really think of her/him" campaign! That can not benefit Plaid in the by-election, whichever candidate is chosen.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

MH said I have to repeat what I tried to say before. Being a BBC political presenter, a police officer or an Anglican vicar does not prevent a person from being a member of a political party

But the substance of your complaint isn't that that people in these professions haven't paid their couple of bob dibs to the party, but that they are unknown quantities regarding political stamina and positioning in the "broad church"

So by your judgement even if they had been paying their mite for many years they still couldn't take part in the democratic process because of employment restrictions!

BoiCymraeg said...

MH - all your points about Ynys Môn will of course be working in the opposite direction should Plaid Cymru fail to win the seat.

I'm not saying it's likely necessarily, but I don't understand why people are treating it like a shoe-in when we've consistently failed to capture it whenever anyone other than Ieuan Wyn Jones is standing (I guess from Labour's perspective you could say the same about Albert Owen, but he did have to win it for the first time without the benefit of incumbency).

Wynbert said...

What's all this nonsense about "waiving the rules"? There's no waiving proposed. The rules as they exist - and as were re-confirmed in the special conference on the party's constitution just a few months ago - allow for exactly this type of scenario.

aledgwyn said...

I think that this debate must be considered in the context of what happened at the Arfon hustings last Friday night, where we ended up with no competition for the San Steffan seat and no competition for the Senedd seat either! For a party which hopes to be the largest party after the 2016 elections, this sent out all the wrong signals.

In Arfon, of all places, with AFF standing down, you would have anticipated a high level of interest and a keenly-fought contest and a spirited exchange of ideas and opinions. Yes, we are left with a very capable candidate in Sian Gwenllian, but Sian herself must be very disappointed in not achieving a mandate for her candidacy in 2016.

Personally, I feel this shows a level of complacency within the local party structure and a failure to foster and encourage potential candidates. It has also deprived the 1,000 or so local members from a momentum-building discussion as to how to move forward in preparation for 2015 and 2016.

With the Ynys Mon hustings held this week in the wake of what happened in Arfon, I feel that PC have acted wisely in "opening up" the process of allowing candidates to put themselves forward. Let's remember that this has not only been done to facilitate Rhun ap Iorwerth's candidacy,(as MH suggests) but it has also allowed Ann Griffith to stand, following her excellent performance in the Bro Aberffraw constituency in the recent council elections. That means that Ynys Mon members have three really good candidates to choose from on Thursay night. What's not to like about that?

Where I would agree with MH is that the hustings themselves have been arranged too hastily. Another week would have allowed all three candidates to send out information to members and it would have built up some momentum, and possibly encouraged new people to sign up to take part in the voting process. It would also have secured a level playing field for all three candidates, bearing in mind that both Rhun and Heledd have had a head start as far as advance publicity is concerned.

MH said...

No, that isn't "the substance of my complaint" Alwyn. It's very much broader than that.

However by being a member of the party, even though not taking part in public activity, others in the party will be in a position to make a judgement about them. They would have been able to show whether they were genuinely committed to the party by what they did behind the scenes ... for, after all, any political party relies on the unsung hard work that its members do behind the scenes.

I find it offensive that someone can just walk in and immediately be in line for a plum position. When Labour parachute in a candidate, they are at least sure of that candidate's track record of commitment to the party and work for the party. Plaid, or at least a majority on its National Executive, clearly don't care about things like that.

It is a terrible message to send out. It shows people in the party that their hard work and commitment, often over many years, can be trumped at a whim by the party hierarchy. It shows people outside the party that Plaid think personalities are more important than policies.

-

No BC, I don't think there's any chance of us losing this by-election. But I am sure that Rhun's supporters will say that it's on a knife edge and that Plaid therefore need a "big name personality" to win it.

-

Just because the National Executive can waive the rules (which they could do before, by the way) doesn't mean they should, Wynbert.

-

To Aled, although the National Executive has only just put Ann Griffith's name on the national register of approved candidates, she has a track record of commitment to Plaid and work for Plaid. She has done the hard graft on the campaign trail and won a seat for Plaid at local level. In short, she is a known quantity who has has demonstrated her worth. Good luck to her.

I agree with you fully, and don't think anyone doubts that opening up the process of allowing people to put their names forward as candidates is a good thing. We should encourage anyone in the party with such ambitions to go for it, without thinking that being selected as a candidate is something reserved for an inner clique. But if we allow people who are not even members to put themselves up as candidates for safe seats (or who've only just joined in order to do so) we send out exactly the opposite signal: that the same inner clique will find someone who they think is suitable whether they are a member of the party or not.

However I don't think it's fair of you to say that Sian Gwenllian doesn't have a mandate. Very often an outstanding candidate will emerge unopposed because others (who probably would stand if that outstanding candidate wasn't in the running) recognize them as being the best person for the job. It's a form of consensus, and I think it is a positive thing. But it does rely on having a proper process. Others in the party must be allowed (indeed encouraged) to put their names forward if they want, and the prospective candidates need to be put under the spotlight so that they can be probed and questioned on what they believe, and for people to find out if there are any skeletons in their closets. This takes time.

We have thrown all that out of the window for this by-election. The selection process is being needlessly rushed through so that one particular candidate without any track record or experience, and without any ordinary member of the party being given time to find out what he stands for, can be bounced into a safe seat.

Bonheddwr said...

Well done! View Welsh Labour's Twitter feed - https://twitter.com/WelshLabPress

MH said...

Shooting the messenger, Bonheddwr? What have I said that isn't already obvious to any political observer, or that Labour (and other parties) wouldn't try to take advantage of anyway?

Remember that I wrote this post before the National Executive decided to waive a rule that I believe is there for a good reason, with the aim of urging them not to do it, warning them of the message that it would send. The National Executive have gone and done it anyway.

Now I am urging the party members in Ynys Môn not to make the mistake of voting for a candidate who has no track record and whose views on issues and policies are unknown. Why vote for an unknown quanity when there are two prospective candidates whose qualities and track records are known? Perhaps they will ignore me as well.

But bear in mind that my only objection to Rhun as a candidate for this by-election is that we know next to nothing about him other than the fact that he is a media personality. I welcomed him joining Plaid Cymru, and have clearly said that he might well prove to be a suitable candidate when enough time has passed for him to build up a track record and show us where he stands on the issues.

Cai Larsen said...

Michael - do you honestly believe that those voting on Thursday know next to nothing about Rhun? It is Mon you know.

They'll decide as they see best - they've got a difficult choice & three excellent candidates in Ann, Rhun & Heledd.

I hope that once the members on the ground come to their decision that you'll accept that the people best placed to choose the most appropriate candidate for Ynys Mon have done so & will support the candidate.

MH said...

Yes Cai, I do believe that ordinary members of Plaid in Môn know next to nothing about where Rhun stands on policies and issues. Of course some, maybe many, will know personal things such as his family connexions and the like, but is that enough? For me it isn't.

And while I don't doubt that members on the ground are best placed to make a decision in geographical terms, in this case it is not true in terms of the information they need to have in order to make that choice or the timescale. I believe that local members have been put into an intolerable position by being forced to make a decision in much too short a time for them to know enough about all the candidates. Whatever the outcome, there is a danger that some people will view it as flawed because of the way it has been handled.

In my comment to Aled, I spoke of a consensus developing if the selection procedure was worked through properly. Time is important. It gives people who might otherwise be disgruntled the chance to come to terms with the way opinion is moving. And even if there still is disagreement at the final selection vote, it will have been sorted out in a fair fight on a level playing field. Rushing things through like this and waiving the rules in favour of one candidate is bound to have a negative effect, not perhaps in open criticism, but in some members staying at home rather than enthusiastically working for and voting for that candidate.

As for me, I have never and will never give unconditional support to any Plaid candidate just because they wear a Plaid rosette. My support for them will be based on what they stand for and where they stand on the issues. A candidate who stands up for the values and policies of Plaid will have my support. A candidate who doesn't can't count on my support. Everything depends on what the issues in question are, how many of them there are and how important they are. I'm content to overlook many small differences and maybe one or two big ones to fight together for an independent Wales.

Alun said...

I'd suggest everyone cools it and focusses on the very important business of winning this by-election on August 1st. Whichever one of the three turns out to be the candidate, they're going to make an excellent AM.

ardibeltza said...

I'm glad people have started to discuss the three candidates because it's important to realise that all three have had to deliberate at very short notice because this is a by-election.
Two of the candidates were unable to declare their political allegiances because of their previous posts and that's unfortunately a fairly common situation for both journalists, civil servants, police and others.
Do we really want to rule these people out of contention on a technicality? Of course not.
What's good to see is that Plaid on Ynys Môn has three fantastic local candidates with differing skill sets. Whoever is chosen, they will make great candidates.
What worries me is that Labour hacks are using this blog to make unwarranted attacks on Plaid - out of context, of course - but why play into their hands when Labour are desperate to even find one credible local candidate?
Time to think positive!

MH said...

Not quite, ardibeltza. As both Heledd and Ann have already fought elections for Plaid, their political allegiances have been clear to the public for some time. And if you are concerned about the very short notice, then direct your concern at Ieuan, for it was he who changed his mind and decided to step down immediately, when only a matter of hours beforehand he was saying he would do the two jobs in parallel. This situation hasn't been forced on us, it has been entirely controlled by people in positions of power in Plaid.

Cai Larsen said...

I'd like to congratulate the national leadership - they've shown that they have their fingure on the pulse of the opinion of the ordinary party member in Ynys Mon.

LeighRichards said...

i understand that rhun ap iorwerth was selected tonite by members in ynys mon to be the party of wales candidate in the august first by election - congratulations to him and commiserations to the candidates who missed out on this occasion.

This is a crucial by election for the party of wales - and it is one we must win and can win, so long as we all get behind the excellent young candidate ynys mon members have tonite selected!

Rhun ap iorwerth's selection is further evidence that plaid - unlike the london ccontrolled parties in wales - has a new generation of young activists emerging. A fact which should fill all of us with confidence about the future of the Welsh nation.

MH said...

I'm sure those responsible are feeling very pleased with themselves, Cai. They've managed to circumvent the carefully arranged selection processes that are taking place or have taken place in every other constituency, and cram this one into just a few days culminating in a hastily arranged hustings in which members were forced to make an instant decision without having any real chance of scrutinizing the prospective candidates.

But for everyone in the party who is pleased that Plaid have been able to secure the support of a big-name personality, there are others who will be rather less than impressed by what has happened.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a big-name media personality, but it remains to be seen whether Rhun is a good or bad choice. Some in the party will know where he stands on the issues, but the rest of us (and that's the huge majority of us) can only hope that he actually supports Plaid's policies. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and wish him well, of course, but we will wonder whether he has the same embarrassing ambivalences and contradictions as his predecessor over issues like independence and nuclear power, because we know for sure that Ieuan was one of the group of people responsible for arranging what has happened, since only he could decide the timing of his resignation and it was his U-turn on that which needlessly squeezed the matter of selecting a new candidate into just a few days.

Cai Larsen said...

The decision, & without going into details it was an emphatic one, was taken at a local level. Your approach would have denied the local membership the opportunity to select the candidate they wanted to choose. They are the most appropriate people to choose.

Contrast the decidion of our NEC to expand the choice available to the local membership & that of Welsh Labour to restrict the choice available to their members by preventing the name of the person who propably would have won from going forward.

ioanp said...

MH - from last night, you do not need to worry about Rhun's attitude to Independence. He was also very clear about Wylfa B as well, but of course you knew that - and it probably explains your posts.

More building an Independent Wales please! In this by-election, the only stitch-up will be by Labour.

Pob lwc Rhun, a diolch Heledd ac Ann am noson werth chweil.

aledgwyn said...

A few comments about the hustings on Ynys Mon last night.

The scale of Rhun ap Iorwerth's victory was overwhelming: he won around 80% of the votes of the 250 members present. Rhun performed impressively- but he wasn't 70% better than Heledd and Ann on the night: which suggests to me that a good deal of canvassing had gone on before last night and that most members had made their minds up before the event had even started.

I think MH has presented a very reasonable case about the political shortcomings of the procedures that came to a head last night, and maybe it does point to the lack of a real political culture on Ynys Mon, that people can be shoehorned so easily into voting en-mass for such an unknown quantity.

Having said all that, you can't get away from the primacy of the personal in Ynys Mon circles. Members would have been aware of all the personal connections that Rhun has on the island, and how such personal connections has led to electoral success in the past. When you are up against the power of the British media day in day out, you can't blame people for seeking to capitalize on the one thing we do have in our favour: personal and community connections.


I would now like to see Rhun ap Iorwerth make a concerted effort to link the personal with the political and really get to grips with increasing Plaid Cymru's membership on Ynys Mon and engaging more people in the process of nation-building. As Heledd Fychan said, we have got to create a new generation of nationalists, and you can only do that by politicizing people and building up your base. Ann Griffith pointed out in her speech, that she managed to win a county council seat in Bro Aberffraw, with no PC branches in the area, and only 2 members in that wide area in south-west Mon. How on earth has that been allowed to happen with PC in power on Ynys Mon for 25 years?!

But last night did suggest that things are going to change: there was a definite sense of momentum provided by having such a healthy competition and three engaging candidates who all had different skills and experiences to offer. It was really encouraging to hear Rhun, Heledd and Ann talking so forcefully about independence and the need to take this message out to people of Ynys Mon.

This by-election will be a shot in the arm for Plaid Cymru on Ynys Mon- and it will also serve to bolster a sense of Welshness on the island, which is so desperately needed after the disappointment of the 2011 census. So all in all, criticism of the process aside, PC are to be congratulated for being bold and decisive and calling the by-election quickly.

Pob lwc i Rhun yn y gwaith- mae'r potensial ganddo i symud yr achos cenedlaethol yn ei flaen ym Mon ac yng Nghymru.




MH said...

Thanks to Aled for his account of what happened, which I'll get to later.

To Cai first. From your tone, I'm not at all sure you've understood what "my approach" is. What I think should have happened was outlined in my 02:56 comment. To me, what Ieuan originally said he would do would seem to reflect a position agreed between the members of the Plaid group in the Assembly, and perhaps at a wider level. Announcing his intention to step down before 2016 but not immediately would have allowed a proper selection process to have been held in which we would have had time to consider the options and properly scrutinize the prospective candidates. It would have allowed Rhun to put his hat into the ring as a Plaid member (though not yet as an approved candidate) and for others to consider whether they wanted to do the same. There would have been time for proper discussion and debate, and for people to give consideration to the merits of each contender. There would have been nothing particularly unusual about this, indeed it is what has happened or is happening in every other constituency.

To make allowances for Rhun's special circumstances, the panel which decides on matters to do with the National Register of candidates would not make a decision on the suitability of Rhun until it was necessary to do so. This would depend on the exact timing of Ieuan's resignation. I think that some time next year would have been the best time to do it, because winning the by-election then (and I don't think there is any real doubt that we would win it) would help us win the Westminster seat in 2015. It might seem like a contradiction to say that Ynys Môn is safe at Assembly level but marginal at Westminster level, but these are the figures:

Westminster 2010 ... Plaid 26.2%, Lab 33.4%
Assembly 2011 ... Plaid 41.4%, Lab 26.2%


By the time we decided to call the by-election Rhun might well have been a member for a year anyway, so the one year rule would not need to be waived. But I don't think a period of a year is sacrosanct; as I said before, a shorter period might prove to be enough. The key point is that the rule is not an arbitrary one, it is there as a safeguard to prevent us from making the mistake of choosing someone who might look promising, but prove to be something else. There needs to be a probationary period. To me, it is fundamentally wrong (I cannot stress that enough) for someone to join the party and immediately be allowed on to the National Register. It is unconscionable to do it for a safe seat.

-

That deals with procedure that I think we should have followed. Now I'll turn briefly to what Ioan said. No, I did not know where Rhun stands on these issues or on any others. You imply that he is pro-independence, and seem to imply that he is pro-Wylfa B. I would welcome any clarification anyone wants to offer.

MH said...

Now I'll get back to the second point Cai made. As I said before, I think that the choice of candidate should be made locally provided that the candidates meet the criteria laid out by the party as a whole. In saying this I am reflecting both the letter and the spirit of the party's constitution. There will often be a tension between local and national issues, so this "double provision" seems to me to offer the best balance between the two. You, Cai, seem to be putting all the emphasis on the local dimension, while ignoring the national dimension.

I have no way of knowing what happened when Rhun was interviewed by the National Register Panel. But I, and I think every member of the party, has a right to expect them to do proper job. Part of that job will be to determine whether the prospective candidate holds opinions and views that diverge from the party's aims and policies. I certainly do not believe that every prospective candidate should be required to toe the party line on all issues. We are a "wide church" and there is room for disagreement. I'll repeat what I said in an earlier comment: that we should be content to overlook many small differences and maybe one or two big ones to fight together for an independent Wales.

If Rhun supports Wylfa B (and I don't know that he does, I'm saying it for the sake of this discussion based solely on Ioan's comment, but I'll write a new post on that) it would clearly be a serious divergence of opinion from Plaid's policy on nuclear power, which is (as people can read here) our:

"total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations"

And—just in case anybody tries Elfyn's trick of saying that Wylfa B isn't "new", but an extension of what is already there—the very same motion specifically states that Wylfa B would be a "new nuclear power station".

In my opinion this is a big issue, and I would not let a candidate who supported Wylfa B onto the National Register if I was on the panel. Particularly in Môn. It would make the party a laughing stock. And indeed we have been a laughing stock for years by allowing political commentators and opponents to say that we are opposed to new nuclear power stations everywhere in Wales ... except in Môn!

MH said...

To conclude, what is at stake here is Plaid as a credible and electable national party. Both Cai, when he said, "It is Môn, you know," and Aled when he said, "You can't get away from the primacy of the personal in Ynys Môn circles," have touched on the way Plaid politics so often works, particularly in our heartland areas. For someone who is inside one or more of these overlapping circles the picture is very different from the way it looks on the outside. Those on the inside tend to assume that what goes on in these circles is what really matters ... and it's probably true, but it shouldn't be. I think that this is the reason why Cai thought party members on the island would somehow know where Rhun stood on the issues without Rhun having to make any public statements about it. I doubt that they did know. In fact I think very few of them did, and those that didn't wouldn't say that they didn't because it would be an admission that they were outside circles which they would really like to be inside.

This way of doing politics might be understandable, for the reasons Aled describes. But it isn't enough. We need to reach out to those who aren't in the familiar circles in which we move. We need to stop being on the back foot and move to the front foot. We need to be public. We need to be transparent. We need to be open. And, above all, we need to be consistent. We cannot say one thing to one small part of Wales while saying something else to the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation will laugh at us; people who laugh at us will not vote for us; and unless we can win votes all across Wales we will never move our nation forward.

Abraham Wood said...

Your factually wrong, Angharad Mair considered standing but decided against it herself. But welldone for creating material for David Taylor & more importantly discouraging people with proper jobs from standing. Your way, we can still churn out politicians who can continue to mouth platitudes about creating jobs etc without actually having created any themselves.

MH said...

What have I said that's wrong, Abraham? I said that Angharad stepped up to ask that the rules be waived in her favour. Read the link.

Why should I care about David Taylor? My concern is that Plaid Cymru should do the right thing. If your concern is that our political opponents are now able to criticize us for the way this matter has been handled, you really ought to direct your criticism at the people who made those decisions.

And I haven't discouraged any member from standing as a candidate, irrespective of whether they have what you might call a "proper job".

Abraham Wood said...

Its bollocks , Plaid have a mechnisms that allows those who wishto become perspective candidates but have not been members for six months & are therefore not on the approved list (as in Rhun's case) or not on the approved list only ( as in Ann Griffiths case) to ask the national executive to give them dispensation to be interviewd at short notice for the list . Ann & Rhun did that and both were succesful , Angharad Mair considered doing it but decided not to .

I can think of lots of perfectly good reasons why somebody needs to take this course of action - but Rhun's one of being a former BBC Political Correspondent is a pretty good one. Its not about 'waiving' any thing its about taking a course of action open to all members be you tv people or a recently very successful council candidate who has had cause to reconsider her electoral appeal.

Angharad Mair decided not to take this course of action others have. She did not ask for any rules to be waived or to be afforded any special privileges.

MH said...

Be careful of your language, Abraham. And read what has already been said. Just because the National Executive can waive the rule doesn't mean that they should.

If they allowed Rhun to be a candidate without knowing where he stood on the issues, they have been derelict in their duty. If they allowed him to stand knowing that he stood for things that are contrary to party policy, it is far worse.

Cai Larsen said...

Despite the long, long discussion the nubf the argument is simple in essence it's about whether or not the party centrally should have the flexibility to waive certain conditions required of prospective candidates if it deems that there are good reasons for doing that.

Mivhael thinks that this is inappropriate because ideollogically suspect people might sneak in - or perhaps people who don't agree with every detail of party policy. As it urns out in the two areas that we've mentioned - nuclear power & independence, Rhun's position is more or less identical to that of Ann & Heledd. Meanwhile the local membership have been given a wider choice & have made that choice in no uncertain terms. I suppose you could call it a reverse stitch up.

Meanwhile over at Transport House on Cathedral Road a proper stitch up has taken place - the local favourite has been ditched - for no understandable reason - to ease the way for a favoured candidate from outside the area who happens to be the son of a Lanour big wig in Cardiff.

And yet we're still dancing around the head of a needle.


MH said...

No Cai, that isn't the nub of the argument ... or at least not of mine. I haven't questioned whether the National Executive has the right to waive the rules, I said that they were wrong to do so.

Nor have I said that a candidate should be required to "agree with every detail of party policy". Go back and look at what I did say, twice.

You claim that Rhun's position is "more or less identical" to that of Heledd and Ann on nuclear power. I don't know about Ann, but I know that Heledd is opposed to nuclear power; she's made that clear here. If Rhun agrees with her, that will be very welcome news. However from the comments made by others, it would appear that he doesn't. Nor did he express any opposition to Wylfa B in this statement to the Daily Post on Friday ... but it's not too late for him to put that right.

ioanp said...

I did not disagree with anything Rhun or Heledd said in the hustings regarding Wylfa B.

MH said...

As I wasn't at the hustings I don't directly know what anyone said, Ioan. I only know what Heledd thinks because she has made her position clear, for example the link in my last comment when she was campaigning in Sir Faldwyn in 2010. She says that she explained why she is opposed to nuclear in these hustings too, here.

If you say that you don't disagree with what she said, and if Cai says that the position she, Rhun and Ann took on Wylfa B was more or less identical, then I really can't see what problem Rhun can have in expressing his opposition to Wylfa B in public.

Post a Comment